Late news in Bird World

Around the beginning of May, people in Manitoba get ‘itchy’ to get out in the garden. The garden centre catalogues have been sitting since December, the days are getting warmer, and that urge to get out and plant starts taking over our thoughts. Today was a quick trip to a garden centre just outside of the city near the river. On the way there I was delighted by the hawks soaring. One Red Tailed Hawk (RTH) was being chased by a couple of crows while a Broad-winged Hawk was flying above the banks of the river. I did not stop and take photographs. By the time I would have pulled over they would have been gone. But, thank heavens, for a book that I got at Christmas. The RTH I recognized immediately but not the second raptor. That book is Hawks from Every Angle. How to Identify raptors in flight by Jerry Liguori. I wish the images were bigger but, other than that, it has been a great help in identification.

Speaking of identification, the two eaglets on the Minnesota DNR nest were banded on 4 May. I tried to catch a good image of their legs but those two are not giving one thing away!

Here is a close up of their young father, Harry. No, he isn’t dirty! He hasn’t completely ‘matured’ (someone might have to adjust that) as he is not believed to be five years old yet! Well, Harry, you are a great dad. You stepped up to the plate and incubated your babies, learned how to feed them, and brought in prey. It took you a bit to catch on – but, you did!

The cameras at the MN DNR Bald Eagle nest were turned off during the process of banding. They also did a health check and took blood samples. Soon we will know the genders of the two eaglets! Here is a video from 2015 at the same nest showing the process:

Many were very sad when California Condor’s Redwood Queen and Phoenix’s egg was deemed non-viable. Those two will try again next year. But congratulations go out to California Condors Condor 589 and Phoebe (569) known as the Pinnacle Power Couple. Their baby hatched on 12 April and is #1078. #1078 will need to survive for six months in the nest being fed by 589 and 569. #1078 will be learning to fly in mid-October. The couple have been together for five years and this is the third chick – hence the designation ‘power couple’. Most California Condors only breed every two years.

#1078 one week old. Phoebe is feeding the baby. Taken from video feed Pinnacles National Park Cam. 19 April 2021

Over in Hellgate Canyon in Missoula, Montana, the oldest Osprey in the world, Iris, landed a whopper!

Just look at the size of that fish and the perfect form Iris has. I am impressed.

Iris got to enjoy some of that magnificent catch and then Louis must have heard about that great catch and thought she might share. In the end, he did steal part of that fish and took it to the pole to eat. Darn that Louis. Iris doesn’t fish for him! He is supposed to be taking care of her.

Gabby has been with Legacy all day at the NE Florida Bald Eagle nest in Jacksonville, Florida. It seems that Samson and Gabby are keeping a close eye on Legacy so she doesn’t get lost again! Well, was she lost? She sure might have been. She has stayed at the nest. It is another hot and very windy day but, if Samson continues his regular food drop, Legacy will have some dinner around 5:30 nest time.

Legacy is sure watching for Samson to appear with her dinner! It is nearing 5pm nest time. Good training for Legacy once she gets the confidence to fly about more.

Arthur has made several prey drops trying to encourage Big Red to let him incubate the Ks but Big Red is steadfast. It is raining and she still doesn’t trust Arthur enough to let him take over when the rain is pitching down! K1 and K2 got a quick feed. Meanwhile, K3 is hatching. The progress is unclear – cannot see the egg!

It’s dinner time at the Achieva Osprey nest and Diane brought in a catfish for #2 and Tiny Tot. It has not been that long since Tiny polished off an entire fish so he is not rushing to get in line. In addition, Tiny might have figured out that the best meat on the catfish comes a little later. Mom has to fight with the head to get it all open. Diane doesn’t like a flake of fish to be wasted! No doubt. She is a good fisher, like Iris, and takes great care of her kids.

Oh, Tiny Tot is so smart. See. He waited. If you look carefully there is really good fish left – nice big chunks of flaky catfish! Sometimes it is good to not rush. Diane is happy to feed that back half of that fish to Tiny and have some bites herself. So Tiny had at least one entire fish to itself and half of another big catfish. He’s set for the night!

There were alarms in the Matsalu National Park in Estonia. Eerik stayed on the White-tailed Eagle nest tree with Eve in order to protect the family. If he wasn’t on the nest, he was on a close branch in case there was an intruder.

Oh, everyone is eating!!!!!!

It is Happy Hatch Day for Izzi, the Peregrine falcon eyass of Xavier and Diamond. Their scrape box is on the water tower on the grounds of the Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia. Izzi has not left home. Will Izzi ever leave home? Many are probably asking the same question. For me, it is a joy to see him grow into a healthy capable falcon!

@ Charles Sturt University Orange Australia. 5 May 2021

And it wouldn’t be fair to check on Izzi and not on the trio at the UC Berkeley Campus. Oh, my how they have changed from the marshmallows last week with the pink beaks and legs. So imagine these three growing up and looking like Izzi in a few months. They will, I promise. They are already charging Annie and Grinnell and trying to self feed. Oh, they are adorable!

It is Day 36 for Maya and Blue 33 (11)’s first egg. Eggs have been rolled and Maya has been enjoying the nice weather. That one egg looks terribly suspicious but no word of a pip or a hatch yet!

Thanks everyone for joining me. I hope where ever you are that your Wednesday has been a good one. Take care. See you soon in Bird World.

Remember: 8 May is Bird Count Day. Get all the information on how you can participate here:

https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-8-may-2021

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: LRWT Rutland Osprey Project, UC Falcon Cam, Achieva Credit Union, Eagle Club of Estonia, Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam, NEFlorida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF, Cornell Bird Lab RTH Cam, Cornell Bird Lab and the Montana Osprey Project, MN DNR, Ventana Wildlife, and Pinnacle Wildlife.

We have lift off – Big Red laid her first egg

For the past month, Arthur and Big Red have been arriving early to restore their nest on the Fernow Light Tower on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By yesterday, that nest was looking rather amazing. The egg cup was nicely lined with strips of bark and there were even some berries and pine needles. The question remaining in everyone’s mind was: when will Big Red lay her first egg?

Big Red and Arthur are Red Tail Hawks. The scientific names is Buteo jamaicensis. You will find these hawks across North America. Those that breed and lay their eggs where I live – in Manitoba, Canada – only reside with us during the late spring, summer, and early fall. They will migrate to warmer climates for the winter just like the Ospreys in the United Kingdom. Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. They remain in Ithaca throughout the year. They have a territory that is normally rich in prey.

Big Red is 18 years old this spring. She was tagged at Brooktondale, New York in 2003. Arthur will be five years old this spring. Birders on the ground knew him as a nestling in 2016; a chick from an adjacent territory near to the cemetery in Ithaca. He is often called the nickname he was given then, ‘Wink’. His real name is, however, Arthur. Arthur and Big Red have been a bonded pair since the death of Big Red’s long time mate, Ezra, in 2017. Big Red chose Arthur to be her mate in the fall of 2017 before he even had his red tails! Many thought that she was making a huge mistake but Big Red has proven over and over again that she knew precisely what she was doing. So far the streaming cam on her nest has helped to re-write our understanding of Red-Tail Hawk behaviour. As we go through the season, I will point out all the things that Big Red is teaching us. For today, however, let it suffice to say that an eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk can still lay eggs!

The image below is from the nest tower cam over the track at Cornell.

The nest cup – where the eggs are laid – is lined with tree park and pine. You can see this in the image below. Pine is traditionally an insecticide to keep the flies away. You will see the couple bringing in a lot of pine branches til the eyases fledge. Eyas is the singular and eyases is the plural form of falcons or hawks in the nest.

It was 21 degrees and the wind was blowing at 31 kph or 19.26 mph. All eyes were on the Fernow Tower nest. Big Red arrived at 11:46 alone.

She was acting peculiar. And we all held our breath. Might this be the day?

It is unclear precisely when Big Red laid her first egg or how long her labour was but by 12:51 everyone watching knew there was an egg!

The wind was blowing so strong that many were reminded of when Big Red was blown off her nest during the 2020 season. And we all wished that the sun would come out and it would be calm. Big Red has been through so much.

Red tail hawks typically lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs. Last year, Big Red and Arthur fledged three healthy chicks, the Js. This year it will be the Ks. If all goes to schedule, Big Red will lay an egg every other day. She can lay three eggs in four days. Traditionally she does not begin hard incubation until all eggs are in the nest.

For many, watching this nest will be the joy of their days. If you would like to join thousands watching Big Red and Arthur, here is the link to the Cornell Streaming Cam:

Big Red has already been busy rolling that egg and tweaking the egg cup. We are waiting for Arthur to arrive so she can tell him the good news!

Thank you for joining me today. My passion for these beautiful hawks will be coming through from now until August. Updates on other nests later today.

Thank you, as always, to the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cameras (there are two) on the Fernow Tower.

Spring is in the air…at Ithaca

The calendar says that spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. It happened at 6:37 am on 20 March in Winnipeg just about the time the first song birds arrived at the feeders. At that moment the Sun moved from being south of the equator to heading north with our half of the globe tilted a little closer to the sun. It is warmer and the birds are arriving from their winter holidays. Soon my garden will be full of Dark-eyed Juncos and Grackles making nests. And, finally, by the beginning of May, the central heating can be turned off, hopefully!

The arrival of spring also means that my eyes are focused on a particular Red Tail Hawk nest in Ithaca, New York. The nest is on one of the Fernow light towers and it is home to Big Red, eighteen years old this spring, and her lively mate, Arthur, who will be five. This will be the third season that this bonded pair have raised chicks together.

The couple have been working on that nest continuously for the past three weeks and both were there doing inspections first thing this morning.

That nest could not be more ready! And Big Red spent more time than she has recently sitting on that nest cup. Could this be the day that the first egg will be laid? We held our breath.

And after approving the nest bowl, Big Red stood up. Isn’t she gorgeous? Her plumage is a deep coppery red right now – Arthur is lighter and, of course, Big Red is bigger – and she is the boss! Arthur might like to think that it is ‘his’ nest but, Big Red runs the show.

She stood and stared off into space and flew to another light stand with Arthur and had a confab. Then she returned to the nest.

Did she whisper sweet nothings to Arthur? did she tell him today was the day? or did she suggest that more bark strips were needed?

And, at the end of the day, Big Red is not on the nest. Will she return? We wait.

Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. There is enough prey in their territory on the Cornell campus to sustain them over the snow and cold of northern New York. This also allows them to keep an eye on their nest so no one takes it. Arthur had to remind a group of European Starlings this year that the nest was occupied -. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want to have a nest that close to Big Red. While the hawks don’t particularly care for starlings they will eat them in a pinch. Better find a nest on the other side of the campus!

If you missed the highlights of the 2020 year, here is the video compilation. There is never – and I do mean never – a dull moment. 2020 was the year of the Js and 2021 is the year of the Ks. And I say this without hesitating – little J3 is my favourite.

Updates from other nests:

Last evening everyone was excited. The microphone on the nest of Jackie and Shadow at Big Bear picked up peeps from the chick hatching. Sadly, the chick died trying to get out of shell. Let us all hope that their second egg is viable and hatches safely. This has been a really bad year for these two. The raven ate one of the eggs from their first clutch and the second egg broke. This is now their second try. Fingers crossed.

All of the other birds are doing well today. Everyone has eaten at least once if not more.

I will leave you with an image of Kisatchie at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest in Central Louisiana. Kisatchie is the first little eaglet born on this big Bald Eagle nest in the forest since 2013. She is also the first baby of Anna and Louis. These are fantastic parents. What a contented baby with its mom -Kisatchie and Anna.

Have a fantastic day. Thanks for joining me.

Thank you to Cornell Bird Labs and the KNF Eagle Cam for their streaming. This is where I get my scaps.

Wait just a minute…this is OUR nest!

There have certainly been a number of nest hijacks this season as well as a number of unwelcome intruders. The threats by the Great Horned Owls continue across the United States on well established Bald Eagle nests. Ravens have been attacking the Bald Eagle at the Channel Islands nest and, of course, we are more than aware of the danger the GHOW in Fort Myers is posing to the nest of M15 and Harriet. At the Pittsburg Hays Bald Eagle nest, on the night of 23-24 February, a GHOW launched an attack on the nest. It was the first ever recorded in that nest’s history. Daisy the Duck was not a threat to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles when she borrowed their nest to lay her eggs but the GHOW sure was to the Bald Eagles near Newton, Kansas who backed off and surrendered the nest to the GHOW. It is, of course, not just the ‘top of the food chain’ raptors that are being bothered, injured, or killed, it is also the smaller raptors such as the Red-Tailed Hawks.

For the past few days, Big Red and Arthur, the resident Red-tail Hawks who ‘own’ the territory within the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, have been renovating their nest on the light stand at the Cornell stadium. The pair have been together since the death of Big Red’s long term mate, Ezra, in 2017. Ezra was killed defending Big Red. It was shortly after Ezra’s death in March, that a very young Red Tail Hawk arrived on the nest. He didn’t even have his red tail! By the fall, when Arthur had shed his juvenile plumage, Big Red had decided that he was the one. She had put several potential mates through what could only be called an exercise to see if they were worthy of her and her territory and also to see if they would be good defenders and providers for her and the eyases. Arthur won the contest. The pair successfully raised eyases in 2018 (when Arthur was two), 2019, and in 2020, the Js. This year will be the Ks.

It is now less than a month til the first egg will be laid and the two are working hard to get what is left of the nest after the fledging of the Js. They began when there was still snow on the nest a few days ago.

‘Look at the mess those kids made when they kept trying to fledge from between the light boxes! Arthurrrrrrrr. There is a lot of work to do. You had better get busy.’

These two hawks are the funniest birds I have ever seen. Big Red is VERY loud and gives Arthur distinct instructions about everything. It is quite clear who wears the pantaloons in this nest. Year after year, they have sent observers into hysterical states of laughter, this eighteen year old RTH and her five year old mate.

The pair made several visits calculating the amount of nesting material that they are going to need to get the platform readied. Arthur brings in massive amounts of twigs building up the front and the sides of the nest over the following days as the snow melts.

And then, on the morning of 25 February at 6:56 a group of European Starlings come to check out the nest! Are they thinking that this might be a really good place for them to raise their young? Oh, I don’t think so.

Twenty-three minutes later, Arthur arrives at the nest with a piece of greenery. While raptors will use evergreen to keep away insects, laying a piece of pine in the nest bowl is a signal to all other birds that this nest is occupied.

After placing the pine needles in the nest bowl, Arthur looks around. ‘Where are they!? I hope they are watching!’.

Arthur decides to work on the nest bowl rubbing his chest against the twigs and nesting material to make an indent for Big Red’s eggs.

And before he leaves he takes a very good look around. Arthur knows that Big Red might like a nice squirrel for dinner but she would also love to eat any European Starling that tries to mess with HER nest.

I want to leave you with a smile on your face. It’s the end of February and we can all use one.

Big Red and Arthur do many things to teach their eyases. Sometimes it is about nest building and at other times it is imprinting the different prey items in their mind so they know what they should and should not eat in the future. And, sometimes, Arthur plays tricks. Have a laugh. The video is three minutes long:

Aren’t those little eyases just the cutest?!

Thanks for checking in with me and the birds. Updates tomorrow on the progress of the new mom at the KNF nest and some recent happenings in the Bald Eagle nest – first eggs happening everywhere including Canada. It is going to be busy in a month!

Thank you to the Cornell Ornithology Lab for its streaming cam on the nest of Big Red and Arthur.